MENA Monitor focuses on the Middle East and North Africa region, analyzing the most important events happening in the area stretching from Morocco to Iran, their consequences for neighboring countries and their impact on the world’s situation.
Date: 11 November 2021 Autor: Michał Przygoda
Maghreb. Escalating Algerian-Moroccan Tensions
On August 24, 2021, Algeria has severed diplomatic relations with Morocco, accusing it of continued hostile actions. A month earlier, the Algerian Foreign Ministry recalled its ambassador to Morocco and announced that it may take further steps in retaliation for unfavorable comments made by Morocco’s envoy to the United Nations, Omar Hilal, who dragged the Kabylia region into the decades-old dispute over Western Sahara.
The dispute between the two countries has also been exacerbated by the normalization of Moroccan-Israeli relations, which, combined with the Moroccan government’s call for self-determination for the people of Kabylia, has resulted in the closure of borders and the freezing of diplomatic relations. Algerian Foreign Minister Ramtane Lamamra stated that his country “rejects to be subjected to such acts and behaviors. Algeria also rejects the logic of the unilateral policies with their disastrous consequences on the peoples of the Maghreb region [the people of Kabylia]. Algeria rejects to maintain abnormality which aims at retaining the countries of the Maghreb region within a constant state of insecurity.”
Another reason for the escalation of tensions was the US recognizing Morocco’s control over Western Sahara. The US support put Algeria in a difficult negotiating position on the international stage. Moreover, relations between the countries are aggravated by the fact that Rabat has been accused of complicity in the immense forest fires that killed about 100 people in Kabylia in the northern part of the country.
Algerians also suspect two groups of arson, including the MAK movement (Movement for the self-determination of Kabylia) fighting for the independence of the region. They point out that the movement benefits from Moroccan support. On the other hand, Algerians support the Polisario movement, which in November 2020 announced that it would take up armed struggle for the independence of Western Sahara.
Since early August, massive fires have contributed to the national disaster. Among the people killed are 30 soldiers who assisted firefighters during rescue operations. Algeria did not have the proper equipment to effectively extinguish the fires. Morocco offered to help with two specialized aircraft. However, the proposal was rejected. The Algerians, even when faced with a significant threat to the safety of their people, decided not to accept specialized assistance.
Another flashpoint was the suspected use of Pegasus – a spyware – by Moroccan intelligence. Its targets were supposed to be the most important people in the country. The head of Algerian diplomacy, Ramtane Lamamra, accused Rabat of surveillance of politicians, for which no clear evidence was provided.
The people of both countries negatively assessed the severance of diplomatic relations and consider it as a rupture of relations with a neighbor, with whom it is inevitable to cooperate and maintain positive relations, despite the existence of certain differences. At the same time, the society recognizes that the rupture of ties took place only at the governmental level, which does not affect the relations of ordinary people.
The interstate relations are not heading towards improvement. There are many flashpoints between the neighbors, which contribute to the deepening of the diplomatic crisis. This is a complicated situation in that even resolving individual contentious issues will not improve relations between the countries.
 https://forsal.pl/swiat/bezpieczenstwo/artykuly/8231448,algieria-zrywa-stosunki-dyplomatyczne-z-marokiem.html [Retrieved October 27, 2021].
 https://www.africanews.com/2021/08/25/rising-diplomatic-tension-between-algeria-and-morocco/ [Retrieved October 27, 2021].
 https://moroccolatestnews.com/el-otmani-omar-hilals-response-to-kabylia-is-not-a-political-position-of-morocco/ [Retrieved October 27, 2021].
 https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2021/9/22/algeria-closes-airspace-to-all-moroccan-planes [Retrieved October 27, 2021].
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